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More Perata campaign-finance intrigue

We’ve got an article up about former state Senate President Pro Tem and 2010 Oakland mayoral candidate Don Perata’s ballot-measure committee paying Oakland City Councilmember Ignacio De La Fuente $25,000 for campaign consulting work, but that’s not the only tidbit we found in Perata’s recent filings.

Perata in late 2008 had transferred $1.9 million from his Leadership California committee – now called Hope 2010, supporting a cigarette-tax-for-cancer-research ballot measure – into the legal defense fund shielding him from a years-long FBI corruption probe; the California Democratic Party also had anted up $450,000 for the legal defense fund. Both were to the chagrin of some progressive activists who thought that money should’ve been spent instead on some of 2008’s hard-fought legislative campaigns.

Federal prosecutors in May 2009 announced no charges would be filed in the Perata probe, and Perata struck the tent on his legal defense fund in July and – after having spent millions on his defense over the years – had some left over to refund to contributors: $534,850 to his Leadership California/Hope 2010; $156,401.43 to his Taxpayers for Perata Committee; $126,675 to the California Democratic Party; and $204,266.32 back to dozens of individual donors.

One of those refunds then followed a strange path.

The Taxpayers for Perata Committee, ostensibly formed for Perata’s never-materialized 2010 Board of Equalization campaign – had shut down in December 2008 but reopened briefly this summer to accept the legal defense refund. It then promptly gave $155,830.07 on July 21 to “Voters Organized for Community Empowerment – VOICE” in Los Angeles. That committee, in turn, gave $152,188 in November to Hope 2010.

So: from Perata, to Perata, to someone else, to Perata. What’s that all about?

Records from the Secretary of State’s office show Voters Organized for Community Empowerment-VOICE was formed last June, just weeks before receiving the money from Taxpayers for Perata, listing Jone Anderson Canaday of Jackson, in Amador County, as its board president. It initially filed as a city committee aimed at increasing voter participation in 2010, but filed an amendment reclassifying itself as a state committee with the same purpose in October – three months after receiving the money from Taxpayers for Perata, and one month before giving it to Hope 2010.

Canaday, reached briefly on her cell phone at midday, said she was driving and would call back later; she didn’t.

Perata told my colleague Kelly Rayburn earlier today that he’d given the money to VOICE to support a friend’s community organizing efforts, primarily in the Latino community.

“What I said was, ‘If that’s not going to used for the purposes it was intended for, I want it back for the cancer measure,’” he said, adding he had been unaware that the money was actually returned to Hope 2010.

Yep, sorta lost track of that $150,000 for a while. One of my fellow reporters was rubbing his head while listening to all this today; I told him now he knows how all those FBI agents and federal prosecutors felt as they tried to follow the money through Perata’s finance labyrinth.

Posted on Monday, January 11th, 2010
Under: campaign finance, Don Perata | 6 Comments »

More on the tobacco tax/cancer research measure

A few choice tidbits from today’s rollout of a proposed ballot measure to hike the state’s cigarette tax by a dollar per pack to fund cancer research, for which I didn’t have room in the article I wrote for tomorrow’s editions

Don Perata, who said he conceived of the measure while still in the state Senate and well before being diagnosed with and treated for prostate cancer earlier this year, said he’s not sure he wants to become the “face” of this campaign, a task better left to allies such as the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association and the American Lung Association. “Whatever I am, I’m still a politician. If you’re an old Catholic, it’s kind of like original sin.”

Nor will he serve on the “Californians for a Cure” campaign committee’s steering board, which will be made up of representatives from the health advocacy groups. “None of these people have vested self interests, none of these people are going to make a dime.”

Perata noted own cancer treatment seems to have been successful. “Some might question my mental health, but my physical condition is really good.”

And, from the nascent measure’s likely opponents…

From Bill Phelps, spokesman for Altria, the parent company of tobacco giant Phillip Morris USA:

“It’s important to remember that the Legislature just passed a budget a few months ago that includes more than $12 billion in tax increases, and this latest idea would raise taxes by almost a billion dollars. Given the state of the economy, we don’t think this is the time to be raising taxes again.”

From California Taxpayers’ Association communications director David Kline:

“We have not yet taken a position, but I anticipate that the California Taxpayers’ Association will oppose the measure based on our view that Californians already have been hit with major tax increases this year, and another tax increase would hurt the economy. With unemployment over 12 percent in California, we need to be looking for ways to improve the economy, not hold it back. Also, the tobacco tax is a declining revenue source, and we have historically opposed initiatives that base ongoing spending on declining revenue sources, because this is a recipe for more budget problems in the future.”

From Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association President Jon Coupal:

“We have opposed tobacco tax hikes in the past and will almost certainly oppose this one as well.”

Posted on Monday, November 16th, 2009
Under: 2010 election, ballot measures, Don Perata, taxes | 3 Comments »

Campaign finance update: Pot and Perata

S.K. Seymour LLC, the partnership that runs Oakstersdam University and its related “cannabusinesses,” last Tuesday gave $10,000 to Hope 2010, a ballot measure committee (formerly known as Leadership California) controlled by former state Senate President Pro Tem and 2010 Oakland mayoral candidate Don Perata. Perata in September publicly endorsed the “Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010,” the marijuana legalization ballot measure co-proposed by S.K. Seymour LLC partner and Oaksterdam University President Richard Lee. Hope 2010 is supporting the California Cancer Research Act, a proposed ballot measure that would raise the state’s tobacco tax to fund grants and loans for reaearch; to create, staff and equip California’s research facilities; and to boost efforts to reduce tobacco use. The measure is now awaiting preparation of its title and summary by the state Attorney General’s office; it looks like the campaign has a Web site being built but not yet ready for public viewing.

In other news, Palo Alto physicist Charles T. Munger Jr., son of Warren Buffett’s billionaire investor partner, last week put another $701,260 into his “Voters First Act for Congress” ballot measure, bringing his total so far to $1,003,030. The measure would remove authority for setting California’s 53 Congressional district boundaries from the state Legislature, and would give that authority instead to the same Citizens Redistricting Commission that will soon be setting state Legislative boundaries (as required by last year’s successful Proposition 11).

Pacific Gas & Electric on Friday put another $500,000 into its somewhat euphemistically named “Californians to Protect Our Right to Vote” committee, pushing a ballot measure which would require local governments to obtain the approval of two-thirds of their voters (rather than just a simple majority) before providing electricity to new customers or expanding such service to new territories if any public funds or bonds are involved, or before providing electricity through a community choice program if any public funds or bonds are involved. Critics say PG&E is playing on populist themes in order to block local governments from abandoning the utility giant in favor of power contracts with smaller, greener energy producers – a movement that’s been gaining steam in recent years. The proponents have until Dec. 21 to gather the 694,354 signatures needed to place this on the ballot next year. This contribution brings PG&E’s stake as the committee’s sole donor to $3.5 million so far.

And Livermore optometrist Scott Kamena on Friday put $23,000 into his own Kamena for Assembly 2008 committee, which had indicated in its mid-year report having $60,749.39 in outstanding debts. Kamena ran in the June 2008 Republican primary for the 15th Assembly District, coming in fourth behind nominee Abram Wilson and candidates Robert Rao and Judy Lloyd.

Posted on Monday, November 2nd, 2009
Under: 2010 election, ballot measures, campaign finance, Don Perata, energy, General, marijuana, Oakland | 3 Comments »

No charges against Don Perata?

I’m hearing that Acting United States Attorney Lawrence G. Brown of Sacramento is preparing to issue a statement saying he’s declining to file any charges against former state Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, D-Oakland — thus spelling an almost-certain end to a years-long corruption investigation in which nobody was ever charged.

You’ll recall that federal prosecutors for California’s Northern District in San Francisco decided to take a pass on the case several months ago, so the FBI took its evidence — reams of subpoenaed or seized documents, interviews with potential witnesses and so forth — to Brown in the Eastern District. The Don as well as his family, friends and former staffers were not amused, saying the FBI was venue shopping for its non-existent case.

Looks like the Perata for Mayor 2010 campaign is about to get a big boost. I’ll be following this as the day progresses…

UPDATE @ 12:55 P.M.: Yep, it’s all true — read all about it here, and stay tuned for updated versions throughout the day.

UPDATE @ 5:25 P.M.: David Dayen at Calitics wants to know if The Don will give back the $1.9 million he diverted from his Leadership California committee – ostensibly created to support Democratic campaigns and causes – into his legal defense fund late last year. (And hey, what about the $450,000 he got from the California Democratic Party?) Fat chance, David… looks as if it’s all gone into lawyers’ pockets by now. At least the Fair Political Practices Commission has now cracked down on these smelly transfers.

Posted on Wednesday, May 27th, 2009
Under: Don Perata | 5 Comments »

Shawn Steel to feds: Leave Don Perata alone

Today on the conservative Republican, Republican National Committeeman and former state GOP chairman Shawn Steel says enough is enough: Leave Don Perata alone.

“I don’t like Don Perata. I don’t like his politics. As senate leader he’s bullied many bad laws for California. But not even Don Perata deserves the abuse he received from Feds for the last 5 years.”


“It’s time to drop the vendetta against Perata. The Feds had 5 years and millions of dollars to make their case. US Attorney Brown instead ought to seek private employment and get out of the prosecution business.”

Posted on Tuesday, April 7th, 2009
Under: Don Perata | 3 Comments »

Don Perata’s former staffers rise to support him

More than a dozen of Don Perata‘s former staffers have joined the former state Senate President Pro Tem from Oakland in urging U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to put the kibosh on a years-long federal corruption probe.

Lawyers for the former lawmaker and his son, Nick Perata, wrote in the past month to Holder, to the Justice Department’s Inspector General and to members of the House Judiciary Committee asking them to review the decision of Lawrence Brown — the Sacramento-based acting U.S. Attorney for California’s Eastern District — to examine evidence FBI agents have gathered on Perata and his associates over the past four years even though Northern District federal prosecutors in San Francisco decided not to indict.

“This ordeal has affected our lives, our families and our reputations. It has resulted in reporter calls at home at night, inquiries by neighbors, questions by our children,” the staffers’ March 18 letter says. “In an effort to cooperate with the San Francisco office, Senator Perata repeatedly waived his rights, thereby extending the investigation well beyond the statute of limitations. He — and everyone associated with him — are now being punished for cooperating.

“We all understand what it means to do a job that relies on public confidence. We understand that the FBI’s office and the U.S. Attorney’s office have jobs to do and we respect that. But it would seem those jobs came to conclusion when the office in charge of the investigation declined to prosecute.”

Posted on Tuesday, March 24th, 2009
Under: Don Perata | No Comments »

What Don Perata said about the FBI probe

With all the hubbub about the FBI taking evidence against former state Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata to federal prosecutors in Sacramento now that federal prosecutors in San Francisco have decided after four years not to file any charges, I figured I’d ask the Don himself when I saw him in court yesterday on an unrelated matter.

Perata said the FBI’s action, and Acting U.S. Attorney Lawrence Brown‘s agreement to review the case after his peers in San Francisco tracked it for years and then took a pass on it, “seems to be unprecedented,” something he chalks up to there being “nobody in charge” as the Justice Department and U.S. Attorneys shift between administrations.

“It has to play itself out,” he said, noting he’s at least glad that federal prosecutors in San Francisco broke with tradition and actually told him there would be no indictment here; usually these things just die in silence. So far, Perata said, nobody at Justice or in Congress has responded to his attorneys’ letters asking for an investigation of this attempted change of venue.

What letters, you ask? These letters:

  • a Feb. 26 letter from Elliot Peters (the attorney representing Don Perata’s son, Nick Perata) to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder;
  • a March 4 letter from George O’Connell (Don Perata’s attorney) to House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, D-Mich., and committee members Zoe Lofrgen, D-San Jose, and Linda Sanchez, D-Lakewood;
  • a March 11 letter from O’Connell to U.S. Justice Department Inspector General Glenn Fine; and
  • a March 11 letter from O’Connell to Brown and to U.S. Justice Department Public Integrity Section chief Eric Olshan.
  • Posted on Wednesday, March 18th, 2009
    Under: Don Perata, General | 2 Comments »

    Don Perata’s day in court

    Former state Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, D-Oakland, was in Alameda County Superior Court this morning to testify against the man accused of having carjacked him in December 2007 – a relatively uneventful 40 minutes of direct and cross-examination that I predict will mark the only time you’ll see Perata in a courtroom in the near future.

    Afterward, he said this was the first time he’d ever testified in open court, and he found it “very structured” in that he had to keep his answers short and to the point.

    “You know politicians, you never use two words if you can use 20,” he quipped.

    More after the jump…
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted on Tuesday, March 17th, 2009
    Under: Don Perata | No Comments »

    Both sides still paying Prop 11 debts

    Amid other campaign finance news emerging today (Jerry Brown has scads of cash with which to run for governor in 2010! Jack O’Connell doesn’t!), it seems both sides are still paying down their bills from the battle over Proposition 11, the redistricting reform ballot measure approved by 51 percent of voters in November.

    Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s California Dream Team laid a cool quarter million dollars on the Yes on 11 campaign’s account and Stanford University physicist Charles Munger Jr. — son of Berkshire Hathaway billionaire Charles T. Munger — gave $117,000 yesterday; earlier this month, former laundry service magnate William Bloomfield Jr. of Manhattan Beach anted up $33,000 on Jan. 15, and Cypress Land Company president Brian Harvey of Los Angeles gave $50,000 on Jan. 12.

    Meanwhile, the Voter Education and Research Fund – a independent committee backed by former state Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, D-Oakland – put $38,000 into the No on 11 campaign’s coffers Tuesday, atop $12,500 it had chipped in back on Jan. 9. Nice to see Perata and his friends at VERF didn’t skip out on the bills entirely, given Perata moving $1.9 million in November and December from his Leadership California committee – which ostensibly had been raising money to help combat Proposition 11 – into his own legal defense fund for use in fending off a years-long federal corruption probe.

    Posted on Friday, January 30th, 2009
    Under: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Don Perata, Election 2008, Jack O'Connell, Jerry Brown, Propositions | No Comments »

    Don Perata does it again, to the tune of $400,000

    Apparently my report earlier this month which broke news of Don Perata’s day-after-the-election transfer of $1.5 million from his Leadership California committee — a candidate-controlled ballot measure committee for which he raised money this year ostensibly to recall state Sen. Jeff Denham and to defeat Proposition 11, the legislative redistricting reform measure — into the legal defense fund he’s using to fend off a years-long FBI corruption probe didn’t faze him a bit.

    The Sacramento Bee today reports he’s done it again, draining another $400,000 from Leadership California into his legal defense fund.

    It’s not illegal, but in many people’s book, raising money for one cause and then using it for another — especially another that seems to be so self-specific and self-serving — seems like a dishonest bait-and-switch. I can only guess he made the second transfer this month in order to beat the deadline on a new regulation the Fair Political Practices Commission considered this month and might enact in January to bar such transfers.

    Posted on Monday, December 22nd, 2008
    Under: Don Perata, General | 6 Comments »